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Key to any restoration, from pre-war and veteran cars to ’60s, ’70s and ’80s classics, is the chrome.
There are two choices for those with badly tarnished metalwork: buy new, or refurbish the original.
Contrasting today’s throwaway culture, classic car enthusiasts are returning to the old ways, says Doug Taylor, head of a family dynasty of metal finishers.
“Many modern items are made of inferior metals,” he says, “often diecast lead-zinc alloys pitted beyond repair.
“Original legacy parts are usually thicker steel, copper or brass and can be restored to the highest quality.”
Taylor, now 82, has been an electroplater all his working life, starting out aged 18 in a plating works in Birmingham.
“My father was a plater and my grandmother was a polisher, a job always done by women in the old days,” he explains.
The business, based just outside Weston-super-Mare, has built a great reputation for electroplating, stripping and polishing any metal component to the highest standards, with customers such as Jaguar, Haynes International Motor Museum and the National Motorcycle Museum, as well as a host of car clubs.
Taylor’s son-in-law, John Heenan, describes the process: “We usually receive a photo of the item first, for a quote.
“Then, when it arrives, we inspect it and remove any non-metal parts.
“We can cater for anything up to 7ft long, such as the largest American classic bumpers, and we often take bulk orders via car clubs – we have a stack of Armstrong Siddeley bumpers here waiting to be rechromed.”
The first cleaning process strips dirt, rust and old chrome in a bath of sulphuric acid. After a few minutes the original chrome and nickel coats dissolve away, leaving a copper finish.
The parts are rinsed and dried, and if needed sandblasted with aluminium powder to loosen stubborn particles.
Nick Taylor, Doug’s son, then polishes down to the base metal, removing the copper coating and any blemishes or imperfections in preparation for the electroplating process.
“Many of the polishing machines have been here since Dad moved to these workshops in 1981,” says Nick. “They still do a great job.”
Next, parts are swilled in a hot caustic cleaner, to remove any polishing residue, as Lorraine, Doug’s daughter, explains: “The most important part of achieving the best finish is to get the metal as clean as it can be.
“We offer a traditional triple-plating process, but first the surface is etched using hydrochloric acid, before another swill then a dip in the first electroplating bath, called the copper strike, giving a base primer for other metals to stick to.
“It takes about 30 secs.”
The electroplating process is initiated by immersing items into a solution of metal salts.
A current is then passed through the solution and a thin layer of metal is deposited on the parts.
“After another swill, a thicker layer of copper is applied in a pyrophosphate tank to give a smooth surface,” says Lorraine.
That takes up to 30 mins, depending on the size of the part.
“Next up is the nickel bath, which adds about a thou’ for every 20 mins,” she continues, “but it can take up to two hours for the largest bumpers to be coated.
“Then two more swill baths before the component is lifted into the chroming tank.”
“Chrome is lazy,” says Taylor Snr. “You need a large current at the start to throw the metal into the difficult places, then we turn down the power to complete the plating. Quality is our strength.
“We might not be able to compete on price with some new parts manufacturers, but our chrome will be of the highest standard and it’ll last much longer.”
Images: James Mann
- Name Doug Taylor Metal Finishing Co
- Address Unit 10, Knightcott Industrial Estate, Banwell, Weston-super-Mare
- Specialism Electroplating of chrome, nickel and copper; polishing and chemical stripping
- Staff Seven, plus two owners
- Prices According to item: for example, £360 for a pair of quarter-bumpers
- Tel 01934 820454
- Web dougtaylor.co.uk
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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